Robie's column - Wonderful Warming Windows

We finally bit the proverbial bullet and got some new replacement windows. I’ll warn you right up front that there’s about 65,000 different brands, installers, manufacturers and salesmen out there all vying for your money. Do your homework. Talk to a few folks who have had their windows replaced. And take your time deciding. I won’t name names here, but the company we chose did a good enough job. They represented themselves mostly honestly. And the quality of the windows is adequate. It may sound like I’m upset with them, but I think the best word is “underwhelmed.” I have to keep reminding myself that what comes out of a salesmen’s mouth is almost never what the actual end-result will be.

If you happen to be an honest salesperson and are offended by the above sentence, I’m sorry. It is the industry in which you work and maybe you are one of the good ones. My dad was in sales his whole life and I tell myself that he was honest and upfront in his dealings. If that sentence makes you mad enough to want to write me an angry letter, as the saying goes: “When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.”

All that aside, the difference in the rooms where we replaced the windows is remarkable. The house itself is not particularly old (it was built in 1997) but the builder used super-cheap windows and the two decades of winters and wet seasons have taken their toll. The sliders on the front porch had visible spaces between the door panes and the casement windows would actually wobble back and forth during a strong windstorm. With just the few cold snaps we have had already, those rooms are clearly maintaining their heat much better, and my morning yoga on the floor in front of the slider is much more comfortable.

Last time we talked a bit about some fall projects you could tackle in the coming weeks. Today I’d like to focus on those projects that can keep you warm and dry and help maintain your home’s value. Certainly windows are one of those projects that will provide ROI, both for your enjoyment as well as the home’s value when it is time to sell.

Moisture is the enemy of all homes. Living in northern New England doesn’t make it any easier. Our springs are wet, our summers are traditionally humid, and winter is just plain white. When it comes to your home, simple maintenance tasks like cleaning gutters and downspouts can make a big difference. It is also a good idea (although a bit early right now) to make note of where the water goes once it leaves the roof or the downspout. It is not easy to adjust the grade around your home once you have a driveway, some shrubs and a lawn in place, but it is a vital factor in keeping the home dry. Do everything you can to get that water flowing away from your home.

Inside the home, be extra vigilant about water-related appliances. Our fridge has the (much loved) icemaker built into the door. Be aware that those extra features translate into lots of moving parts and lots of moving water. As much of a hassle as it is, I recommend pulling the fridge out of its hiding spot every year or two just to make sure there’s no hidden drips or leaks back there.

“One easy-to-miss spot for moisture is the laundry room,” notes Badger Realty agent, Janet Nickerson. “The washer is an obvious factor, but double-check the dryer vent as well. The moist air being expelled from the dryer can quickly build up in the walls and floor of that room and allow mold and mildew to creep in at an alarming rate,” she warned.

As winter approaches, another common culprit for moisture is the roof. Although the images of icicles dangling off a snow-covered roof are romantic and quaint, the reality behind the scene is far more dastardly (Cue the ominous music... I’m getting in the Halloween spirit early!). The “ice dam” that is lingering on the edge of your roof is blocking the snow and melted ice from dripping off the roof. It also tends to allow the moisture to creep back up under the shingles and inevitably work its way down the walls. While it may not necessarily find its way into your home, it is most certainly dripping behind the siding, bypassing the siding’s purpose and allowing the structure of your home to be wet.

One way to mitigate the creation of ice dams is adding some extra insulation above your ceiling in the living areas. This low-cost, high-impact project will take a huge step towards preventing ice dams on your home and keeping the heat inside where it belongs. Since you live in a cape (because we are in New England!), chances are you have access to the crawl space above the living area and can work some magic there without breaking the bank. You’ll save money on heating with the added insulation and prevent a wet house and compromised walls to boot!

Fall is a great time for projects in and around the house. My goal, these last couple of weeks, is to offer a few suggestions for projects that will not only increase your enjoyment of the home while you are living there, but will save you money in energy costs and improve the value of your home when you are ready to sell. See you at the hardware store!